Why is my dog being sick? Signs your dog is sick, causes and solutions 

Two women and a dog snuggle on a mustard yellow couch.

Dogs are our best friends – and we’d do anything for them. Remember that time they came back from the park and decorated your newly painted wall a beautiful shade of mud-brown? We just can’t stay mad at them! If your dog isn’t their usual, playful self, if they’re refusing to eat their favourite snack, or acting withdrawn, then perhaps they're feeling unwell. Keep reading this article if you’re asking yourself “is my dog sick,” and “why is my dog sick?” 

Despite knowing your fluffy little menace like the back of your hand, it can be tricky to spot when they’re sick, and that’s why it’s important to be on the lookout for signs of potential health issues. Learn how to tell if your dog is sick by reading our article. Discover the signs and causes of sickness in your dog, and what to do when your dog is sick. 

How to tell if my dog is sick? Signs to look out for

Common physical symptoms 

How to know if your dog is sick? While the thought of dogs being able to speak is undeniably exciting (their verbal filter would be non-existent), they cannot let you know with words that they are unwell. But there are a few signs that can tip you off. Below are a few common physical signs that your dog is sick: 

  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhoea 
  • Unusual bad breath or bad odours coming from your dog’s skin or ears 
  • Frequent sneezing, coughing, and/or panting1


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Is my dog sick? Behavioural changes to look out for

If your dog is wagging its tail and jumping about after you’ve given them a few tasty treats, it’s fairly obvious that good boy is happy! So happy, in fact, they knocked that plant pot over again (we still love them, though). Behavioural signs your dog is sick are a little bit harder to interpret, though. In any case, you know and care for your four-legged friend better than anyone else, so trust your instincts if you feel like your dog is not acting quite like themselves!  

The following behavioural changes can be signs that your dog is sick: 

  1. Loss of appetite. A sudden loss of appetite could indicate an underlying health issue. 
  2. Drinking more than usual. While it’s normal for a dog to be drinking more on hot days or after a long walk, drinking a lot more water than usual for no apparent reasons could be a sign of a potential illness.   
  3. Excessive itching. A lot of dogs itch a certain amount, but it can become alerting if you notice that your furry friend scratches more than usual. 
  4. Changes in personality. Is your dog usually social, but is now acting withdrawn? Energetic but now lethargic? Calm and friendly but turning aggressive? These could be signs that your dog is sick. While the fact they aren’t wreaking as much havoc as usual might sound nice, if it’s at the cost of their health, we’d take the seemingly never-ending pieces of fluff and shredded paper around the house any day! 
  5. Growling when you touch them or get close to a certain body part. This could indicate a zone of discomfort or pain.  
  6. Unusual crying or whining. If your dog has been whining or crying a lot recently, it could be their way of vocalising their potential discomfort or pain.1,2


If you’re feeling worried about your dog’s behaviour, reach out to your local veterinarian for a second opinion. Always seek veterinary attention if your dog’s symptoms are worrying or persist.

Emergency signs that require urgent professional attention

Immediately take your dog to the vet if they present the following symptoms: 

  • Trouble breathing 
  • Cries of pain 
  • Extreme diarrhoea or vomiting 
  • Seizures 
  • Bleeding and open wounds 
  • Hard and swollen abdomen1


Having a pet is all about embracing the mess. You just can’t have those cute and cosy cuddles without the inevitable deluge of dog hairs all over the sofa, carpet, and those clothes you swore to keep dog-free. If your dog has had a little accident on the carpet, check out our article on how to get dog poo out of the carpet so you can get back to doing what you do best, being their human!

Why is my dog being sick? Causes of sickness in dogs

Now that you know about the main symptoms and signs to watch out for to tell if your dog is sick, you will want to learn what caused them in the first place. That way, you’ll have all the information you need to take care of your furry best friend. Are you asking yourself “why is my dog sick”? Here are potential causes that could explain why your dog keeps being sick: 

  1. Eating food that is toxic for them. Not all food agrees with your best friend’s stomach, even if they look delicious to both you and your dog, and seem at first glance to be harmless! Foods that are toxic for dogs include: chocolate, grapes, avocados, macadamia nuts, onions, food that contains too much salt, and more.3
  2. Food allergies. Even if some foods are known as harmless to most dogs, your dog could be allergic to them, and consequently get sick from it.  
  3. Bacterial or viral infections. Just like you, your dog can suffer from bacterial and viral infections and fall ill. 
  4. Intestinal worms. Worms can be vicious and tough on your dog’s little body. They can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, skin irritations, respiratory problems, and more. 


To ensure that the food you give your dog is good for them, research it beforehand, and seek your veterinarian’s advice.

What to do if your dog is sick, and how to prevent it

My dog is sick, what should I do?” It’s time to learn how to care for your sick dog, and how to prevent illnesses and keep them healthy and happy! Protecting your dog and preventing health issues in is the best way to care for them. This can be done by applying the following tips: 

  1. Keep your dog away from rubbish, at home and during walks! Your dog can contract infections and develop worms because of it.  
  2. Know what food your dog can and cannot eat. The best way to avoid issues related to food is to keep food that can harm your dog far away from them, no matter how tasty they think it is! 
  3. Make sure that your dog’s treatments are up to date. Adult dogs should be wormed every 3 months, while puppies that are under 12 weeks old should be wormed once every 2-3 weeks.4 
  4. If your dog is vomiting or has diarrhoea, and has trouble keeping food down, feed them white meat and white rice in small portions.5
  5. Do not let your dog drink too much water at once, as it can result in further vomiting. Instead, offer them a small bowl of water several times throughout the day.6 Plus, keeping less water in the bowl will help put an end to those soggy socks you get from walking in all those puddles! (It is adorable watching them parade their sloshing bowl around the kitchen, though.) 
  6. Give your dog a lot of love and warm hugs! Showing your dog that you’re here for them and taking care of them as they’re sick is going to help them achieve a speedy recovery.


Write down a list of foods that are toxic for your dog and keep it in the kitchen, or near where you usually prepare their meal, to ensure that you are not feeding them anything that is bad for them!

Having a poorly pet can be stressful – whether it’s your first best friend, or your partner in retirement, recognising when your dog is unwell and learning what to do can reduce this stress and most importantly, get your dog the care it needs. You may not be able to spot sickness as well as you can spot those muddy stains on your jacket and trousers, after the fusspot jumped up to hug you, but with this advice, you can spot signs of sickness a little easier. 

We all love our pets. Caring for your dog when they’re unwell is a wonderful way to show them that! For more articles on how to care for your dog every day, you can read our articles on how to clean and disinfect dog paws when they're really muddy, as well as on how to travel with your furry friend.

*Winner General Household Category. Survey of 8,000 people in UK & ROI 


1 Bowman Veterinary Hospital, “Top 10 signs your dog may be sick (and what you can do)"

2 Pet Health Network, “The top 10 signs your dog may be sick (and what you can do about it”

3 Battersea, “Toxic food for dogs”

4 Vet Pharmacy, “Your complete guide to dog worming”

5 Blue cross, “Diarrhoea in dogs”

6 Blue Cross, “Caring for your sick dog”

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